Sunderland 0-0 Fulham
SUNDERLAND WERE left frustrated by a combination of Mark Schwarzer's excellence between the posts and their inability to finish their chances.
The Black Cats hit the woodwork twice in the first half alone and saw Schwarzer deny them from point-blank range in the second half with an impossible block.
Steve Bruce brought Ahmed Elmohamady into the side for the suspended Sebastian Larsson whilst John O'Shea recovered in time to play at full-back.
Fulham were without John Arne Riise so Chris Baird was at left back with Aaron Hughes in from the wilderness down the right. Andy Johnson started on the bench despite his impressive recent form.
In a scrappy opening period of the game, Sunderland went closest by far when they twice hit the bar from close-range through Kieran Richardson and Jack Colback.
Fulham were restricted in chances and only looked like scoring when Kieren Westwood dropped a routine high-ball under pressure. The Irish 'keeoper was however able to recover.
The second-half continued in much the same vein with Fulham trying to hit the hosts on the counter with little success.
Sunderland continued to crank up the pressure with Stephane Sessegnon putting in a virtuoso display down the left-flank after Ji Dong-Won joined the action.
On more than one occasion the Benin international danced his way down the left before hooking in a tantalizing cross. The Black Cats though, were unable to convert from close-range.
Schwarzer somehow denied Sessegnon following Bardlsey's setup at the death after a heavy deflection appeared to have helped the ball home. The Australian 'keeper flung out a leg which succeeded in blocking the goalbound effort.
Fulham could've snatched all three themselves when Bobby Zamora drove forward before releasing Clint Dempsey on the break. The American talisman somehow dragged his shot wide when one-on-one though.
Not a classic encounter by any means, but Sunderland certainly came closest. The lack of a top-draw finisher is evident as the chances were being created but the final shot was somewhat lacking.
Sunderland: Westwood; O'Shea, Brown, Turner, Bardsley; Elmohamady (Noble), Cattermole (c), Colback (Ji), Richardson; Sessegnon; Bendtner.
Not used: Carson (gk), Vaughan, Egan, Meyler and Gardner.
Fulham: Schwarzer; Baird, Senderos, Hangeland, Baird; Dempsey (Briggs), Etuhu, Murphy (c), Duff (Ruiz); Dembele & Zamora (Johnson).
Not used: Etheridge (gk), Gecov, Kasami & Kacaniklic.
Attendance: 37 688
Referee: Mr A Taylor